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Clean energy developer to transform former mine into massive clean energy storage project: 'Will help ensure people have energy when they need it'

"Storing and generating on-demand electricity, which can be used in any number of ways."

"Storing and generating on-demand electricity, which can be used in any number of ways."

Photo Credit: iStock

For the first time, a former coal mine will become a pumped storage hydropower facility thanks to a Florida clean energy company.

Rye Development's Lewis Ridge Pumped Storage Project in Bell County, Kentucky, will be among the first of its kind built in the United States in more than 30 years and the first built on mine land, according to a news release.

The Department of Energy via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide $81 million in funding, CleanTechnica reported. Construction on the $1.3 billion project is slated to begin in 2027.

The outlet compared the undertaking to a large battery-electric storage project but said: "Closed-loop pumped storage hydropower may be relatively more climate change friendly, at least according to [a National Renewable Energy Laboratory] study. Pumped storage also tends to be operational longer than battery storage systems."

That's a win-win. As extreme weather increases in severity and frequency, the U.S. and other countries need reliable forms of clean energy to help secure power grids and provide electricity during natural disasters and extreme conditions. This system, which reuses all its water, will also not pollute the environment like dirty energy power plants that rely on coal or gas.

"We're excited to help demonstrate the potential of former mine lands to be transformed into a clean energy resource," Rye Development vice president Sandy Slayton said in a Q&A with CleanTechnica. "The Lewis Ridge Pumped Storage Project is not only a significant investment in Kentucky; it's an investment in strengthening our national electric grid."

The facility will generate a maximum of 287 megawatts, which can power 67,000 homes, and store electricity for up to eight hours. It will take four to five years to build, creating 1,500 jobs during that time and about 24 maintenance and operations positions in the long term.

It relies on gravity to produce energy, pumping water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir "when energy is plentiful." When energy demand increases, the water flows downhill, turning turbines to generate electricity. Pumped storage hydropower "represents 96% of domestic energy storage capacity, making it the most dependable energy storage solution," per the release.

For now, the DOE grant will help Rye speed up its timeline for studies and engineering, which need to be completed before it applies for a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Slayton told CleanTechnica.

Slayton, who said the facility should last 100 years, noted the area is conducive to a successful pumped storage facility with its "topography and elevation, access to transmission lines, water availability, a strong workforce, and community support" as well as the necessary infrastructure from the mine.

"The Lewis Ridge project will act as a giant water battery, storing and generating on-demand electricity, which can be used in any number of ways," Slayton said. "The project will help ensure people have energy when they need it, even during extreme weather conditions."

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